In 2017 the Amsterdam based studio Guerrilla Games released their first new IP since 2004: Horizon Zero Dawn. It is a huge departure from the Killzone franchise the studio was most famous for. Taking place in a beautiful and magnificent post-post-apocalyptic environment, it follows a young woman called Aloy on her quest to discover the mysteries of the world and her own past. During her quest, Aloy encounters the sprawling wildlife that has recaptured earth. However these creatures are different from animals; They are mechanical creatures build to maintain the fragile ecosystem of this new world. Some of them are friendly, others are hostile but all look and behave similar to the animals they were inspired by.
The 'machines', as they are simply referred to, are an essential part of the game and its unique setting. Even before the game released I fell in love with their designs and animations. In 2017, a few weeks before the game released, I got the chance to collaborate with Playstation DACH to recreate the iconic Thunderjaw, the machine on the cover of Horizon Zero Dawn. When I later played through the entire game, I realised the Thunderjaw was only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more machines in the game that leave a lasting impression long after you finish playing. Some of them you only encounter by chance, but others are closely tied to Aloy's journey. One of which is the Sawtooth, which is the first machine of Horizon Zero Dawn I rebuild with LEGO® pieces after the game was released. Not only do I love the design of it, I also vividly remember the first encounter with it, as it is a pivotal moment in Aloy's story.
"I didn't bring you here to answer questions, Aloy. I brought you here to deal with that."
The Sawtooth is the first Machine the player has to actually fight in the game. Aloy's mentor Rost brings her to a destroyed lodge where a Sawtooth is waiting. He tasks her with hunting the machine to keep the people safe, but also to test Aloy's skills and strength. This is meant as a tutorial for the player and introduces vital mechanics such as laying traps and attacking weak-spots. But more than anything else, I think the scene successfully establishes a fear and respect for the combat machines that lasts for the entire duration of the game. You first only witness a rustling of the trees, then you see the glowing blue eyes slowly stalking through the forest until the Sawtooth suddenly jumps forward with a striking roar. While every other encounter in the game up to that point was peaceful, in this moment, it becomes evident that these machines are predators and you are their prey.
As Aloy becomes stronger, Sawtooths do not present much of a challenge later in the game. Still, I was always keen on avoiding them, which is a testament to how well this early scene presents them as a threat. I talk a lot about the design, shapes and details of the in-game model, as this is what the LEGO® recreation is based on, but it must be mentioned how incredibly well the machines of Horizon Zero Dawn are animated. The way they move, attack and behave in the game is one of the main reasons they feel so life-like and why they became one of my favourite aspects of the game.
"This hunt is yours to make, Aloy - yours alone. No matter what happens, I will not intervene."
When I started with the LEGO® recreation, I first solely focused on the head of the Sawtooth. Its nose in particular is very detailed and has quite a unique shape towards the front. I looked at many different possible implementations of that design with LEGO® pieces. Eventually I settled on a LEGO® animal part, a wolf head (Part-ID 53457) to be precise, even tough it does not perfectly match the shape. The original head of the Sawtooth is concave towards the front, while the LEGO® wolf head has a convex slope. However the texture of the LEGO® part hides the differences well while offering a similar plating as the original. It also offers two connecting points needed for the name-giving front teeth. The next part that needed special attention were its eyes. The Sawtooth has two of them on either side of the head. At first I considered only using the dark-bluish grey LEGO® binoculars (Part-ID 30162) as they conveniently already have a dual-barrel design. However, the grey circles did not sufficiently represent the glow of the original eyes. Therefore, I used black binoculars instead to hold two LEGO® lipsticks (Part-ID 93094pb01) on both sides. As these are not available in blue, I used the red version. The Machine's eyes turn red in the game once they attack, so this seemed like a fitting choice.
Returning to All-Mother
I first visited Guerrilla Games in 2017 shortly after Horizon Zero Dawn had launched to bring them the LEGO® Thunderjaw I created. In the following two years, I managed to build four more of the iconic machines: The Sawtooth, the Corruptor, the Shell-Walker and the Watcher. Thanks to the amazing Community Team at Guerrilla Games and the studios managing director Hermen Hulst, all of the builds have a new home at the studio.
The team has taken an incredibly bold step with Horizon Zero Dawn, a game fundamentally different from their previous Killzone games. And I am very glad they did. The world and the machines of Horizon Zero Dawn have fascinated me since I saw the very first trailer and I loved to hear from the team, what aspects of the game were intentional, coincidental or sheer bad luck (very similar to building LEGO® in that regard). After all the hard work they put into creating this world, it is wonderful to see that it is being so warmly received and inspires so many fan creations. I am honoured to be among the fans of the game and to have had the opportunity to personally thank the developers for making it all possible.
The models I created from Horizon Zero Dawn still rank high among my list of favourites. They required a lot of patience and creative problem solving to get them right and each time I received incredible feedback from Hermen and the team. I probably would not have tackled more difficult motives in LEGO® would it have not been for their encouragement and love for fan art. And as Horizon Zero Dawn opened a new chapter for Guerrilla Games, the inspiration it gave me defined my love for LEGO® building in a new way and I am very grateful for that.
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You can buy the instructions to build your own Sawtooth here: